Cinema, speaks differently to different people. For most, it’s a mean of entertainment. For some, it’s a medium to express an opinion. Very rarely it happens that cinema while being an entertainer also provokes the cerebral matter to think about it. ‘Sonchiriya’ isn’t the kind of film which mere entertains, nor it aims to send out any messages. It simply takes a knife and pushes deep into the abdomen ! It is a different breed of cinema which dares to go beyond its subtext. It tells the viewer that cinema can be much more than only entertainment. ‘Sonchiriya’ isn’t only a film. It is a social commentary about caste, creed, colour, belief and people of our country. It’s a gut-wrenching tale, about the times when the ravines of Chambal were ruled by the likes of Man Singh and Phoolan Devi. The establishment called them dacoits. But they preferred to be known as rebels. Fighting against the injustice meted towards them, the rebels struck terror into their enemies hearts. To protect the innocents, they took up arms to become the barrier between the establishment and the meek. But as Frank Miller would say, who watches the watchmen? Is there a conscience that gets drowned in the unhinged flows of the river? Or is it the bloodshed that lets loose the animal within?
Abhishek Chaubey, with his envious list of filmography that boasts classics such as ‘Ishqiya’ and ‘Udta Punjab’, lets his imagination run wild in the ravines of Chambal. ‘Sonchiriya’ fits into the genre of westerns yet it gets deeply rooted into the rustic essence of the country, where people still get castigated on the basis of their caste and creed. The film opens with a group of rebels, getting ready to attack a wedding ceremony to get their hands on the jewellery and money. Mr Chaubey begins the movie on the note when everything starts going wrong. The viewer gets tricked into the narrative and follows it like the tiger hunts the bait. Post interval, the viewer is introduced to the conundrum that seems to be the root of all misery. At the very end, he ends the tale with a horrific, gut-wrenching finale that shocks the viewer. This is a master storyteller, at his best.
Anuj Rakesh Dhawan ’s cinematography is of top notch. Through his lenses, the borderless ravines and the narrow bylanes of the village represent the two ends of the narrative. The rebels fearlessly roam the ravines and their former oppressors turned foes, infest the bylanes of the village. Ideologically different yet when it comes to castigation, they all are the same. They all hate the untouchables. A lower caste policeman in a senior position is hated by his subordinates who belong to a much higher caste. A young girl, from a lower caste, injured from a rape-induced attack is left untreated by the doctor who belongs to a higher caste. But when it comes to women, the irony dies a thousand deaths there. Women are far beneath every caste and creed. The writing by Abhishek Chaubey and Sudip Sharma is poignant. In order to move the story forward, the writer duo use dry humour. Some classic one liners such as ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai, G*** Pe Goli Dhain Dhain!’ and a superb take about how Government assurance has killed more people than the Government supplied bullets, makes the audience chuckle, despite it being a serious movie.
A word about the ongoing fiasco with the film. The worst thing one can do to undermine an actor is to tamper the performance. If you remember R Balki’s ‘Shamitabh’ where a young actor gets prominence due to his superb acting and voice. The catch was the voice which wasn’t his but of a dubbing artist. And once the actor started receiving praise, the dubbing artist also started having these pangs of jealousy, which eventually went up-to such level that it sabotaged both their careers. It took me a while to get adjusted to the fact that Manoj Bajpayee, Ranveer Shorey and Sushant Singh Rajput weren’t speaking in their respective voices. The original film was shot with the actors speaking in Bundelkhandi and the version I saw had the dialogues dubbed by some other actors. Imagine Amitabh Bachchan speaking without his baritone laden voice ! Feels weird, right? This is exactly how it feels when you have the film dub with unknown actors. It robs you of the superlative experience that the actors generate with their craft. Eventually it’s the audience, who feel cheated, after being subjected to a lesser work.
Despite not having the actors real voice, ‘Sonchiriya’ still shines as a film. Manoj Bajpayee, Ashutosh Rana, Ranveer Shorey, Bhumi Pednekar and Sushant Singh Rajput are the actors who breathe life into this film. A fantastic star cast for a fantastic film. Only if they had let the film release in its original format, the performances could’ve hit the zenith.
Watch ‘Sonchiriya’ before it flies away from the theatres.
The Cinemawala Rating:3.5/5